First published 2011-06-08

Aussie readers will know one thing about the following initials. Regardless of if they are enthusiasts of Holden or Ford, regardless of if they like imports or local cars, modern cars or classics, regardless of almost anything, they will know the initials H.S.V. and they will know, regardless of their allegiance, that HSV equals power.

For those not in the know, HSV is the specialist tuner branch of Australia‘s own General Motors arm, Holden. Standing for Holden Special Vehicles and founded in 1988 to design, homologate and build Holden’s first Group A race car after the demise of the Holden/Peter Brock/HDT partnership (detailed elsewhere), the initials, love or hate them, represent increased power, handling and refinement over the mainstream Holden models.

HSV’s niche is often thought to be in the exclusive realm of improved V8 sedans and wagons; through air intakes, exhausts and ECU tune, a fairly standard family truckster (albeit one with a 6.0 litre V8) is transformed into a car that, a few short years ago, would have given almost any Italian thoroughbred a run for its money.

Aside from a dalliance in the late 2000s with the Vauxhall-sourced, Astra-based, turbocharged HSV VXR, HSV have dealt exclusively with Holden’s own, six cylinder and V8-powered sedans, wagons and long-wheelbase luxo-barges. Or have they?

It may startle you to find out that HSV took a long time to find their feet.

… a looooong time –


We’re not wild about 1980s, mainstream Aussie small cars; in fact, a lot of Aussie cars in the 1980’s were decidedly under cooked. The introduction of mandatory, low octane unleaded from 1986 pre-dated wide use of electronic fuel injection by just a few years, creating a dearth of interesting cars during that time period. In fact, the mid-to-late 1980s saw the power of many cars going backwards, increasingly de-tuned to suit the fuel and new fuel economy regulation, all at the expense of driving pleasure and now all well circumvented by fuel injection systems that offer more power for less fuel use.

This jigger is something different; before HSV had found its true niche, it offered upgrades and models that just would not be dreamt of now; in fact, applied to Holden’s mostly Daewoo-sourced current small car range, it would be marketing suicide.

Because, you know, this wasn’t –

The truth remains that in the 1980s, the N13 Nissan Pulsar-based, Holden-built Astra was one severely unlikely candidate to receive HSV’s gift of awesome.

With the marketing success of the VL Commodore based ‘Walkinshaw‘ Group A, which was officially titled as the ‘Holden Commodore SS Group A SV’, clearly a catchier name would be required for any future HSV models. HSV was soon able to release the sporty, VN Commodore-based HSV SV3800, named after the capacity of the Buick-sourced V6 engine in neat figures, while a full-fruit, bellowing V8 version was available in the HSV SV5000.

Armed with a set of extractors, a sports exhaust, Holden’s ‘Family II’ 1800cc fuel injected engine and more than a few kilos of body kit and following that established nomenclature, it made sense that the Astra-based HSV would be the SV1800.

The HSV SV1800 did not do anything really poorly, however the main thing it did well was not be really excellent at anything. Sure, there was nothing wrong with it, but compare it to contemporary HSV models like the VL-Commodore-based Group A and the successful VN-based SV5000, and it wasn’t much more than your Mum’s car with a body kit. Even the wheels look like they were stolen from a 1980s CSA display stand at Bob Jane T-Marts.

The awesome about this car is that it is a genuine HSV, and a really fucking rare one. Wikipedia claims only 65 were made, while the seller states this example is build number 15 of 30. Certainly the HSV SV1800 was built in both sedan and 5-door hatchback form, but regardless of how the split was decided, it‘s a rare version of a rare car and it’s especially rare that it still exists at all.

There would be more than one bogan HSV enthusiast arguing that this car even exists -
There would be more than one bogan HSV enthusiast arguing that this car even exists –


Looking at it; It‘s pretty tidy with no wobbly aftermarket body modifications, and no backward-hat Gen Y-ers have felt the need to inject the poor little SV1800 with any more cubes or forced induction.

If it were ours, we‘d replace the plates (mandatory if the car is changing states) and join our local HSV club. Then we‘d annoy them by insisting on attending EVERY club meet they have and EVERY display day they have until we got bored. Why? Because sometimes, some clubs just don‘t want to accept that their marque of choice built a shit car. Trying rocking up to a HDT club meeting in a Brock-fettled Lada Samara and see what we mean.

For a HSV, any HSV, It‘s cheap at $4,000, appears to have a good history with only two owners and even purports to have air.

 Check it out on Carsales

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